New lung cancer screening test now in Canada
Published Wednesday, June 4, 2008 4:32PM PDT
Lung cancer is often diagnosed too late, long after the cancer has spread. But a new test hopes to change that.
The test is called Lung Sign -- a screening kit that anyone can order through their doctor.
More Canadians die of lung cancer than any other cancer -- and lung cancer researcher Dr. Bojana Turic is hopeful this test will save lives.
The kit includes a simple device that helps patients produce the sputum specimen, which is coughed up from deep within the airways.
"They cough in a jar," she explained.
The jar is then sent to the lab where technicians prepare slides to examine the sputum sample using sophisticated software under the microscope. The results take between five and seven days.
While the test is not a diagnostic tool -- it does tell a person their probability of already having, or developing lung cancer, by giving them a score.
"The score is correlated with the presence of cancer," Dr. Turic said. "So what it actually shows is the increased, or decreased risk, of one individual."
Patients with elevated scores could then be sent for further testing.
"What really this test offers the physician is some kind of tool to identify those people that are very high risk," Dr. Turic said.
Thoracic surgeon Dr. James Bond recommends this test for smokers.
"For patients, in particular, who have been smoking for a long time and have started to wonder about their own risk, it's a test they could initiate with their family physician," he explained.
Dr. Bond says it could also be a good test for men and women over 50 who have been exposed to long-term secondhand smoke or carcinogens, such as radon or asbestos.
It may also help patients who are lung cancer survivors.
"It's still finding its place within the health-care system with respect to screening and diagnostics for lung cancer," Dr. Bond said. "But I think we're going to find that place, it's just a question of where."
Dr. Turic is hopeful the kit, which costs $225, will one day be used as a first line screening tool.
Currently, the test is not covered by any provincial medical plans. The test can be purchased online, via the telephone or through your doctor's office.
However, you must supply a doctor's contact information since the results are sent to him/her and they need to be interpreted according to your individual circumstance.
The bottom line is: the earlier lung cancer is detected, the better the outcome.
For more information or how to order the Lung Sign test, visit www.LungSign.com
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Dr. Rhonda Low